Is teaching my life or just a job?

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Accent Study Centre

12 Bedford Square

Bloomsbury

London

WC1B 3JA

United Kingdom

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As teachers everywhere start a new school year, we at the Education Forum ask a difficult question: why be a teacher?

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Is it for the sense of mission, purpose and dedication? Is teaching a calling, “a noble and worthy thing” as the dictionary defines ‘vocation’? Although older teachers might view it so, a generational divide may be opening up.

Most new teachers choose the job on pragmatic rather than idealistic grounds in a survey by Leeds University: steady income, good holidays and uncertainty about alternatives are now the most common reasons. A recent article in the Times Educational Supplement claimed NQTs view teaching as simply a job. It features only at the beginning of their career plans; it is no longer perceived as a lifelong commitment but as a stepping-stone.

Is the new breed of teacher more likely to forget ‘riches not in coin but contentment,’ and leave their current school prematurely for a better salary?

Are we now seeing as a result the rise of the ‘juicer school’ – squeezing staff to their pips to extract the most before they quit anyway?

Data targets, monitoring and the erosion of autonomy are regularly cited as smothering the idealism in education. But what about those teachers in start-up schools willingly going the extra mile? Are they visionaries or deluded? Indeed, is all that conscientious midnight oil actually the new normal?

Unanimity on the role of a teacher is diminishing in the context of the recruitment crisis. Yet amid confusion about the purpose of education more broadly, should we be surprised by what motivates people into teaching today?

So how should we perceive teaching? Is it an inter-generational conversation requiring commitment and selflessness, or is it time to forget this sentimental rhetoric? Is it wrong if teachers are not motivated by altruism, intellectualism and public service but by money and personal improvement?

We have assembled a larger panel than normal for this discussion, with yours truly in the chair. All are teachers from a range of ages, backgrounds and experience:

• Helen Birtwistle is the acting co-head of history and politics at a school and sixth-form college in London

• Margot Johnston is the head of sixth form at a south London school.

• Conor McCrory is a native of Belfast and teacher of biology in a Hackney school.

• Aoife Ní Shuilleabháin hails from Cork and is a part-time supply teacher in primary schools in London and the south east.

• Gareth Sturdy began teaching when John Major was prime minister and has taught in comps, grammars, free schools and adult education in London and Liverpool.

• Sean Walsh entered the teaching profession in Dublin and has recently been appointed head of history in a Watford school.

• Josie Williamson came into teaching via Teach First. Originally a primary school teacher she now teaches psychology in a sixth form college in Tottenham.

Come along - especially if you are a teacher yourself, however experienced. Does teaching remain a Romantic cause, or should we start to see it as just a job these days? We look forward to hearing your point of view!

Date and Time

Location

Accent Study Centre

12 Bedford Square

Bloomsbury

London

WC1B 3JA

United Kingdom

View Map

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Contact the organiser to request a refund.

Eventbrite's fee is nonrefundable.

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